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On Loss…

My grand mother died on the 23rd of July this year (2016). For reason’s I’ll probably address some other time, I didn’t cry or get hugely moved even though she raised me for a while in my very early days and would always let me have a cheeky sip of her White Cap beer when she’d come visit over Christmas time.

But that’s not the main observation here – no.

When we lose someone, and reach the point where we can tell others, the way they respond sounds like a canned response:

“I’m so sorry for your loss”

My knee jerk response is, “No, you don’t need to be” ¬†or, “Why? You didn’t contribute to her death”. Equally when I’ve heard someone’s died I find it hard to say anything genuine because I actually just want to say, “how are you holding up?” That’s the only genuine concern I have of the matter.

Death happens, tragic situations happen. If we’re at that stage where we can’t do the public thing whilst having such a thing on our minds then we should really stay around the close-knit circle of friends and family for support until we can stand on our own two feet again.

For some of us – we kind of have no option but to grieve for a very short period of time then put that shit away in a box for another time to unpack and deal with. That could take years.

But I digress.

Having had to fly over to Kenya, initially to support my mother and her brother with the loss of their mother, I was exposed to Western and traditional mannerisms. Not only with dealing with the above phrases about apologising for losses, but the traditional respect of elders and their using this moment to celebrate life and to enjoy memories of those who have departed and those who have now come together to bid farewell.

“I remember when you were this tall…” was the running joke when people heard my name. Initially I’d politely smile and wait for a memory nugget to be revealed and then laugh politely or genuinely depending on the hilarity of the memory – thankfully mostly the latter happened. Apparently I was a head-strong loud mouth for the most part. Nothing new there.

After a while, I figured a gentle but happy response: “That seems to be the running joke this weekend!” and everyone would laugh and the stories would continue. Always happy, even the serious notes.

Coming back from such an inspiring space and home, to the 100% western canned responses of “loss” irked me initially, then another response came out of sheer frustration: “Don’t be”

Don’t be sorry for my loss. I know many other people will probably find comfort in the canned response and the automatically reassuring pat on the shoulder or hug. And I now realise that I’m doing that thing I roll my eyes at when I read passive aggressive posts from men and women about situations that happened and how incensed they felt..and how they didn’t do anything.

But this is my mental dumping ground so – whatever.

I guess I could put an intention out by way of being more considerate for sensitive situations and rather than choose to be quiet and suffer the most insufferable deer in headlights moment when your trying to think of something genuine to say, but you know most of what you want to say is not the correct canned response, choose simply to say (because it’s your truly genuine question of support in a matter of loss):

“How are you holding up?

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On Strength…

You know when you hide behind an excuse and because that excuse is valid no one really even bothers to try and see through what you’re saying? So you just get left to carry on as you were and no one’s wise to what’s going on?

I’ve had various injuries over the last year thanks to stupidity or just bad timing. And it’s been an excuse to stop training in the gym. Truth be told, the whole competing thing killed the strength chasing that got me into the gym in the first place!

Crossfit in 2010-12 made me realise that the strength people saw in me existed and eventually manifested in becoming physical strength. As with these things it further increased my mental strength and confidence by chance. Then the strive for aesthetics and neuroticism and a good old dollop of orthorexia made the gym less fun and more of a bore and a chore. Add that it was my job to be in there more often than not, it was all going to become stale sooner or later.

Injuries brought that into the “sooner” spectrum and 2015 was the year of sporadic training and trying to deconstruct disordered eating and reducing how often I’d poke myself (I got really good at figuring out my fat % by pinching my skin/fat and visually seeing anywhere from a 3mm skin fold to the god awful 23mm on my thighs) just to “check-in” I wasn’t getting fat.

Who even does that?! I wouldn’t – I love food and take advantage of my genetics…and the fact that I twitch and fidget a lot.

FFWD to 2016 and a short lived relationship fuelled by watching UFC championship fights and spending an afternoon or an evening going to a local bouldering gym and I’d found a place that was the perfect balance for me to get out of my head, and socialise a little bit but not deal with overwhelming crowds (who knew that working as a personal trainer for 3 years and effectively going from living in nightclubs to studying research papers in bed would cause for mild social anxiety).

What’s more, depending on how you climbed, you could deal with technique or turn it into a hell of a workout but it never plays out that way. Being the mental chess that it is, it’s essentially you versus a route (and any other vertigo issues you may have). Being the competitive sort, and being able to challenge and push myself or be challenged and pushed by others made a perfect match. Even though I’m still injured!

FFWD 5 months into bouldering and I’ve finally accepted my injuries will go away provided I make an effort to work on them, so I’ve got a sports therapist I see weekly now to keep muscles from spasming and becoming overly tight. And I’ve gone back to training in the gym my way (for strength and efficiency). Today I have added 20kg to my reverse narrow grip pull downs. For YEARS I’ve been stuck at the 40-45kg mark. And thanks to 5 months of bi-weekly bouldering I’ve added 20kg to that specific pull.

In a beautiful way this shows just how much fitness isn’t about going to the gym, but finding something you love and doing it consistently without negativity or punishment.